Veronika Machová

If you study at the Faculty of Education you are supposed to experience an internship at a primary school. I am going to tell you my story, in which the main obstacle was not the pupils or the teaching itself.

It was my first lesson of the day. I had got to school early so as to speak with my supervising teacher. I had half an hour before the lesson would start, time for us to have a good chat. I did not know how I was going to introduce myself to the class or for how long we should play the game I had prepared for today. It would be really good to speak to her before I went to the class. I kept checking the time. Ten minutes before the class was due to start, I started getting nervous. The teacher was not coming! It was half past seven. She was late. “Good, good. These things happen. Don’t worry, just wait here. She wrote to you yesterday that she would pick you up in front of her office.”

I waited for another twenty minutes. I kept asking other teachers where my supervising teacher could be but everybody was in a rush so nobody actually knew. I decided to go to the classroom anyway because the pupils might be unsupervised there. I could at least introduce myself and play a game with them to fill their spare time with something useful.

I opened the classroom door and could not believe my eyes. There she was! She must have forgotten our arrangement. The pupils suddenly became silent and just stared at me. “Oh, of course, pupils, this is our helping hand,” she said, introducing me. “Hi, my name is Jane and …” I wanted to tell them a little bit more but the teacher interrupted my speech. “Open your textbooks on page 43, please,” she said, before turning to me. “Hello, Janet, just sit wherever you want to and listen. I’ll tell you more after the lesson, OK? “It’s Jane, not Janet,” I told myself. But I just smiled and sat down at the back of the classroom.

It was little bit strange because she instructed me to prepare a revision game based on the past simple tense while she played a game on this topic which should have been my activity. But OK, maybe she was just covering for my real supervisor teacher.

When the lesson was over, I approached her. “Hi, can I ask you something? Are you the Mary who wrote me the e-mail yesterday?”  She smiled, grabbing her things and heading out of the classroom. “Of course, Janet, it’s me.” She went out of the classroom, not telling me where she was going. I had the strong feeling that she didn’t want me to be there.

I had two more lessons with Mary and I wasn’t able to try anything in either of them. After the last lesson I approached her again: “What are we going to do tomorrow? I can prepare an activity for the children. When we wrote to each other via e-mail you told me I could prepare a game for today. I did, but you didn’t give me an opportunity to put it to use. We didn’t have time to speak about anything today either. Do you have time now?” Mary just stared at me as if I was a ghost, her eyes wide open. After a while she answered with a big smile: “Of course, Janet, I will grab my things and we can go to my office to talk!” The smile was undeniably fake, and at that point I was determined to change schools, or at least the teacher. But first I wanted to know why she was being like that.

We went into her office. “Take a seat, Janet.” She was using the wrong name on purpose but I didn’t want to play her game. I was here because I wanted to learn something, not to fight with some washed-out teacher. She is about fifty years old and I understood that she might be having a crisis, but I wasn’t going to suffer because of it. “Am I in your way somehow?” I asked Mary direct. She was caught out and didn’t know what to say. She smiled at me: “No, no, Janet. I am really happy that you are here. You are young and you can tell me what is new in the world. I bet you went on an Erasmus stay, so you can tell all these amazing stories from there. Oh, of course, you can teach me how to use technology because we didn’t have those, you know, machines and stuff. We just had a piece of paper …” (her voice was rising with every other word) “… and a pen. My daughter is better at this, you know, Janet. But my grandchildren and those pupils, I do not understand them anymore. They speak to me in a language I have never used before.  I go home every day feeling stupid. They should feel that I am giving them something, but instead they say: ‘I don’t care; we can google things now, Grandma.’ And I do not find it funny, Janet. There is nobody to help me but I have to help everybody with everything… and then … there’s you with all those ideas of yours about how to make the world a better place … but you know, whatever, I do not care either.” The last word was almost yelled. Mary was almost crying but she was trying to hide it. “I am sorry that you feel that way …” I wanted to cheer her up but she told me to leave. I did.

I was really disappointed that a person like this was my supervisor teacher. This was supposed to be an inspiring, enriching and positive internship. Instead, I felt frustrated and angry. I told my mother everything and she gave me her opinion. “I understand her, Jane.” I was quite shocked. I thought that she would be on my side, not on hers. “But mum, she is supposed to help me, not the other way around. She gave me a hard time and made a scene like that! We do not know each other. She should not be my supervisor, Mum.”

I tried to explain my point of view. “Jane, we are only human. We have good days as well as bad ones. You do not know what this lady has been through and you cannot judge her. Just imagine yourself in her place. It was hard for me to learn how to work with computers too. I remember the day the boss told me that I could not be in a field research team anymore and that I would do all my work on a computer. I felt so stupid in front of my substantially younger colleagues, who were used to working on a computer since kindergarten. But I could at least do basic tasks, so I cannot imagine being a teacher and experiencing such change and maybe being mocked by students on a daily basis. Be patient, Jane. Perhaps you can be the first to show her some computer basics.” My mum does not pull punches. She just says what she thinks. She gave me a hug and I went to my room to think about how to help Mary.

The next day, I waited in front of Mary’s office in a good mood. “I am not going to give up on her,” I told myself. When Mary caught sight of me in front of her office, I saw the desperate look on her face. “Morning,” I greeted her. “Morning. Sorry for yesterday, I was having a bad day,” she replied coldly. We went into her office. “You can have your moment and do the game which you prepared for yesterday.” I was surprised that she was speaking to me. It was my turn now. “Can I ask something? Do you know a Mrs Skácelová?” She looked at me and said, “Maybe, which one do you have in mind?” She stared at me, waiting for my reply. I smiled and gave her a piece of paper. She took the paper and looked at it. “Of course,” she was smiling but unlike before, she was smiling with her eyes too. “Martina Skácelová. Oh, I am glad she teaches at the Faculty of Engineering. She must be on good terms with computers. Good for her. She was my classmate at grammar school.” Mary seemed happy, so I could continue with my plan. “I spoke with her last night on the phone,” I told Mary. She looked at me, quite surprised. Why would I speak with her, of all people? And about what? “She told me that you could sign up for computer lessons with her and that she would also like to grab a coffee sometime.” It was risky to propose something like that and try to help Mary. But I am going to be a teacher and when I see somebody who can manage to do something but is just scared of it I can show the person at least that they have to try it before they complain. Mary did not say anything for a while. She looked at the paper then back to me several times. I let her think about it.

The whole day was great. Mary let me try some new things and games with the pupils. I really enjoyed being a teacher and everything that is connected with it. Mary also gave me advice about several things. We went to her office at the end of the day again. “I really miss hanging out with old friends,” Mary suddenly told me. I just smiled. “Her number is on the note. Just call her, she seemed pretty excited when I told her about you.” Mary smiled widely. “You know, she has been on really good terms with computers for as long as I’ve known her. I am not too old to learn new things. Do you know any interesting books about computers? I would like to know at least the basics before I sign up for her courses, Jane.”